ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – England batsman Alastair Cook is confident of making amends for his side’s heavy defeat by Pakistan last week when he opens a test innings with captain Andrew Strauss for the 100th time in their second test on Wednesday.
The two men have scored 4,163 runs together with an average of 42.91 in their 99 test innings.
But Cook, who wasn’t aware of the milestone on Monday, now needs to match that kind of performance after putting on just 10 and six runs in Dubai as Pakistan handed out a 10-wicket defeat to the top-ranked team in the first of the three-test series.
“It’s a great thing to work now, I didn’t know that it’s our 100th time,” Cook told reporters at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. “We are pretty similar in character and we do enjoy batting together and hopefully on (the) 100th time we will do something special.”
Cook-Strauss will become the fourth pair in test history to reach 100 innings together after West Indies’ Gordon Greenidge-Desmond Haynes (148), Sri Lanka’s Marvan Atapattu-Sanath Jayasuriya (118) and Australia’s Matthew Hayden-Justin Langer (113).
Cook singled out his stands of 196 at Lord’s in 2009 and 188 at Brisbane in 2010 — both against Ashes rival Australia — as the two best partnerships with Strauss. England won both test matches.
England batsmen failed miserably to counter the spin of Pakistan’s star offspinner Saeed Ajmal, whose 10-wicket match haul earned him man of the match award.
England can take some encouragement from the short history of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, whose slow wicket has seen Pakistan draw both its test matches over the last two years, against South Africa and Sri Lanka.
“It’s always nice to turn up at the ground — especially as a batsman — where history suggests that you can score runs,” Cook said. “(But) it doesn’t count for anything, we’ve got to go out and put our poor performance behind us, we’ve had to put our hands up as a batting unit.”
Despite Ajmal’s brilliance, England batsmen played some reckless shots in Dubai that included Cook’s attempt to cut Ajmal very early in the innings and a botched pull shot off paceman Umar Gul in the second knock.
“We made some poor decision making,” Cook said. “To score runs you have to make good decisions for long period of time, we didn’t do that.
“Credit to Pakistan bowlers who put us under significant pressure to force us (do) mistakes, (but) over the years we have handled it.”
Pakistan spinners posed real problems for the England batsmen as captain Misbah-ul-Haq deployed his spinners within the first hour of play, reducing Strauss’ side 43-5.
“It’s not what we are used to in English conditions,” Cook said. “We had talked about it, we knew they would turn to spin early and they have certainly got the bowlers to do that.”
Cook admitted that since becoming the top-ranked test side, England players knew there would be some tough challenges ahead when they play on subcontinent wickets.
“We said when we turn No. 1 that there are going to be some rocky roads, rocky times ahead of you,” he said.
“No matter how good a side you, you always lose games of cricket against some very good sides against which you are playing. This is a real test of our character without a doubt, we’ve shown that in the past and hopefully we can show it again.”